Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Photo via Twitter
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced he changed the terms of his office’s social media policy in response to complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union that negative comments were being deleted.
In a letter to the ACLU, Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh told the organization Thursday it had a point in its criticism of Rackauckas for scrubbing negative comments from the office’s social media sites.
“The points you raised in your letter are well taken,” Baytieh wrote the attorney who contacted Rackauckas last month.
“Accordingly, the OCDA will immediately implement changes to our office’s social media sites to address the points you raised,” Baytieh wrote.
ACLU spokesman David Colker said he was unsure if the organization would respond on Thursday.
The response was a turnabout from the District Attorney’s Office reaction when it received the complaints last week.
Rackauckas then fired back that the ACLU often attacks him for his stance on sex offenders and gang members.
“The ACLU routinely attacks the Orange County District Attorney’s Office due to our aggressive pursuit of sexual offenders and gang members,” District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden said.
“The OCDA remains committed to the business of putting criminals behind bars and keeping our residents, visitors and members of the business community safe,” Van Der Linden said.
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a former prosecutor who is running against Rackauckas, ridiculed him on the issue last week.
“There’s Tony’s rules and then the rules for the rest of us,” Spitzer said. “King Rackauckas Rex thinks he can misuse official government channels and then politically censor them. Last time he lost to the ACLU over a botched gang injunction it cost taxpayers $6 million.”
ACLU attorney Brendan Hamme sent a letter to Rackauckas alleging the deletion of negative tweets and comments on the District Attorney’s Office Facebook page are unconstitutional.
Hamme cited a ruling from last year as precedent.
Hamme said negative comments about the office’s role in the so-called Jailhouse Snitch Scandal, which alleged informants in custody illegally solicited information from suspects for law enforcement, were particularly targeted for the delete button.
“When an office that is supposed to seek justice is embroiled in a scandal that throws into question its ability to fairly administer justice, it unsurprisingly and rightfully becomes an issue of public concern,” Hamme wrote.
“By deleting critical comments, while allowing laudatory and neutral comments, and by blocking critical users, your office impermissibly discriminates against commenters based on the viewpoint of their speech,” Hamme wrote.
Hamme also faulted Rackauckas’ office for blocking some social media users from the prosecutor’s online forums.
“Furthermore, when your office blocks users who make critical comments on your social media pages from accessing those pages, it also violates their right to receive information…” Hamme wrote.
—City News Service
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